Friday, 8 June 2012

Group A: The Group Of Life

4 teams that will all fancy their chances, a kind of reverse Group Of Death.

Poland, of course, are the team we need to keep an eye on; home advantage, a nation already faced by slurs on their identity and character, perhaps embittered by the focus on their potential for racism. The team is the country, or so it seems. Mark Van Bommel, that arbiter of good grace, has already made himself an unlikely hero by rightly stepping up to the plate on racist fans and has thus negated the slurs on his own character after his unique 'approach' to the last World Cup (even if de Jong was responsible for the impromptu karate against Spain, it's has Van Bommel's, er, stamp all over it).

I haven't seen much on Poland's chances, people don't seem to be giving them a hope. They could win this group and then... with the breeze against their back? Perhaps not, but just looking at the Group Of Life alone and you can see how things might play out.

Greece will sit back, become an archetypal hard to beat (like) side, but don't look lethal on the break (or the bench). They don't look like they have goals in them and I feel, this time, they'll need them. Russia will rely heavily on the old guard of Arshavin et al, who  look to be passing 30 quicker than even Gerrard's old bones. There's Dzagoev, who's looked a little tasty at CSKA Moscow but... the 4-4-3 favoured by Advocaat will see them overrun in packed midfields, leaving them heavily reliant on getting the fullbacks forward... could be an energy sap too far. The Czech's still rely on the mercurial Baros, who has a history in big games but hadn't had a great season and it remains to be seen if he's yet learned to look up while he has the ball, a skill he didn't need or use in previous successful Euro games but.... well, it didn't do Peter Barnes much good, as a mate said to me last week. Also, the Czech's have a relativelu inexperienced defence, which doesn't tend to bode well in games which tend to be tight.
So what of Poland?

My mate, Matthew (a Borussia Dortmund / Watford fan) has been posting various Dortmund based scouting tips on Facebook so I'll defer to him for a minute:

Robert Lewandowski. He bagged 22 in 34 Bundesliga games and 7 in 6 in the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) including a hat-trick against Bayern in the final. "Lewangoalski" was also named Bundesliga player of the season. He is quite a traditional 'English style' centre forward & it has been rumoured he will follow Shinji Kagawa to Man Utd. Lewandowski's main problem at Euro 2012 will probably be his relationship with his manager Franciszek Smuda, who he has openly criticised for relying too heavily on non-Polish born/speaking players. However, it's unlikely that Smuda will drop his star striker & I expect "Lewangoalski" will live up to Mirsolav Klose's billing as one to watch.

The captain, Jakub Błaszczykowski, is another Dortmund player to watch. Kuba, whose uncle also captained Poland, usually plays on the right-wing but can also play at right-back. For a winger he is certainly not afraid to get his foot in & can run all day. An obvious parallel in the England team would be James Milner, but Kuba is quicker & likes to get forward a bit more. A fan favourite at Dortmund, he overcame tragedy at an early age when he witnessed his father murder his mother. Apparently he reads the Bible & prays to God daily. I’m sure every single England player will be doing exactly the same throughout the tournament...
The third of Dotmund's Polish trio is right back Łukasz Piszczek. I say right back..., but he has also played left wing, right wing and centre forward! Like his fellow Pole Kuba, he is quick and likes to get forward but can stick the boot in when necessary. He has been linked with Internazionale, Chelsea & Real Madrid but since he signed a new contract last summer, which lasts until 2016, I would be a little surprised to see him leave Dortmund.

And then there's Szczesny, a goalkeeper who became an integral part in Arsenal's resurgence. He gets very little credit for his part in Arsenal's reawakened challenge for the Champions League places but he's going to be on a high too (What? You're not relying on Joe Hart?).
With Poland's first game today very winnable, they could build a head of steam (or perhaps let out a head of steam) which could see them win the group and then... well, you'd guess it'd be either The Netherlands or Germany... Tricky, but what would they have to lose?


  1. Thanks for the credit, although you could have proof read it for me! Dotmund indeed... Anyway, the key for Poland will be whether they can overcome the tensions in their camp. Smuda's decision to pick the French-born duo of Ludovic Obraniak and Damien Perquis, plus German-raised pair Eugen Polanski and Sebastian Boenisch, has not gone down well with the likes of Lewandowski and Cloughie's favourite goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski. However, if Poland can get off to a good start tonight I can see them winning the group. If they don't get out of the group then Smuda may need to use his recently renewed German passport...

    How far can they go? Well I'm sure there are plenty of Pole's who would relish putting one over Germany and their 'faded foxes' such as Klose and Podolski. That said, I can't see them getting beyond the either the Germans or the Dutch.


  2. Er...Yeah, maybe he's not that underrated a keeper after all...

  3. The Group Of Life, of course, allows ALL groups a chance; it seems that perhaps Greece and the Czech's have understood this better than Poland or Russia...